Scott Lyall

Greene Naftali Gallery

The bluntness of the literary citation in Scott Lyall’s Washington Square, 1997, might leave viewers unfamiliar with Henry James’ 1881 novel wondering what fundamental elements they are missing. The book may be fairly common reading, but in borrowing its title, the installation can’t avoid a certain clubby tone, demanding a well-delimited “interpretive community” (to use Stanley Fish’s term). Borrowing from canonical or high—culture sources in contemporary art sometimes masks a not-so-noble attempt to confer an aura of erudition on the work in question. Yet in the eloquent text distributed by the gallery, Lyall states that acquaintance with the novel is not a prerequisite for understanding his installation. We shouldn’t take the artist’s word for it, though; is the reference to the once-ritzy New York address and the book that took its name in fact essential to the piece?

The interplay

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